Death of a Salesman is a 1949 drama or stage play written by Arthur Miller, an American playwright. The play is a two-act catastrophe explained via dreams, a montage of memories, and arguments of the central character Willy Loman. The protagonist is a traveling sales guy who is upset with his life and seems to be falling into senility. The stage play encompasses various themes like betrayal, the anatomy of truth, and the American Dream. On another hand, Glengarry Glen Ross is also a play film written by David Mamet. In 1984, the play film won a Pulitzer Prize. The drama piece displays portions of two days in the lives of a group of four despaired Chicago real estate representatives who are ready to involve in any kind of immoral, unlawful activities like lying, burglary, intimidation using threats and flattery to bribery to sell undesirable real estate to unsuspecting potential purchasers. This paper compares the two plays and provides lessons in Death of a Salesman that Shelley seems to have missed.
Since the early 1900s, being a salesperson has at all times carried a negative stigma. Being perceived as aggressive, high-pressure, deceiving individuals; the feared action of purchasing has haunted every individual at some point based on the context of the two plays. Various terms have been used to describe sales guys like thieves, sharks, and cons, among others. Perceptibly, the latter terms have stuck with the occupation throughout the era. Two realistic descriptions of similar phonies can be pinpointed in both Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.
The two plays portray the styles of two sales guys who possess very comparable selling methods, yet contrastingly different at the same time. The leading character of Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman, is frequently observed as a tragic character with whom the audience tends to sympathize. Simultaneously, his deceiving, adulterous and dishonest ways are hated. Additionally, the character’s over-assured attitude appears disdainful and fashions a contempt for the character. For instance, when he articulates “Goddammit, I could sell them! ” (Miller, Morehouse, & Gibbs, 1973). Similar attitude and character traits can be pinpointed in Mamet’s leading role, Shelly Levene when he begins to declare how he was a great seller. Praising himself, Levene boldly shouts that his achievement as a sales guy is not a result of his luck rather his “skill” (Mamet, 2014). Oftentimes, both characters mention how they were great assets of the firm back in the day “averaging a hundred and seventy dollars a week in commissions” (p. 1089) and “Cold calling. Nothing. Sixty-five, when we were there…” (Mamet, 2014).
In addition, both Loman and Levene meet their catastrophic ends as they come to know that their deceiving nature and the disguise of great marketing they lived by, is a crushed realism. All both characters desire is an opportunity and to live the way they did in the past days, however, both characters are denied the opportunity. Whereas their characters imitate one another, the selling styles of the two personas are dissimilar. Loman’s technique involves going to clients and having natural conversations with them to the extent that potential clients feel human. More to his chagrin is the novel reality he faces wherein “it’s all cut and dried, and there’s no chance for bringing friendship to bear” (Miller, Morehouse, & Gibbs, 1973). Contrarily, Levene assumes the approach of “cut and dried” selling method, frequently using his other acquaintances as false clienteles just to make a sale, whether or not he is deceiving and extorting money from customers. Levene, from the beginning, tries to scam “leads” from his supervisor, Williamson, “… I need the leads…”, he confidently tells Williamson who half-heartedly starts making a deal for Levene (Mamet, 2014). From the beginning, Levene uses manipulation methods to sell and even uses similar techniques on his co-workers like in the case of his supervisor. Loman pushes his truthful personality qualities as the key to vending achievement, however, it is observable that his selling skills decline as compared to the other sellers.
Moreover, the two personas are equally flawed with the fantasy of possessing their business corporations besides waiting for the ideal customer to turn out. Both Loman and Levene possess some foul personalities, including feigning a facade to con individuals; nevertheless, Loman is deceiving his family whereas Levene is deceiving his customers. The playwrights, Mamet and Miller highlight a hard-selling technique in their pieces of writing. The latter involves a situation whereby a seller use manipulates a customer psychologically to sell. In this case, the seller is not concerned about the client’s satisfaction and often the seller knows the consumer will be put in a bad situation by making the purchase. Noticeably, both Miller and Mamet rail against such a dishonest approach to selling via their plays, spotlighting the damaging impacts (the ruin of the fundamental unit) and worsening the flaws of the selling approach.
Lessons in Death of a Salesman that Shelley Seems to have Missed
Various lessons can be picked from Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Shelley Levene appears to have missed some of them. Shelley Levene takes on the deceptive and deceitful traits of Miller’s protagonist, Willy Loman and unfortunately, the two characters both have tragic ends. Second, Levene fails to learn that being a salesman was always had a negative stigma during the century due to the negative traits the majority of salesmen depicted. If Shelley Levene understood this aspect, he could have taken an honest approach to sell and salvage the reputation of the salesmen. Accordingly, Levene unlike Loman could likely have a positive end. Lastly, Shelley Levene failed to understand that Loman’s tragic end emphasized the loss of identity as well as man’s incapability to welcome transformation within himself and in society.
In summary, both Death of Salesman and Glengarry GlenRoss are plays written by playwrights Arthur Miller and David Mamet respectively. Even though the two plays were written years apart, the main characters possess similar and yet contrasting traits. The similarities between the characters, Willy Loman and Shelley Levene include, both are salesmen, they use trickery, deceit, and manipulation, and the two characters both have tragic ends. The two characters also differ to some extent. For instance, whereas Loman tricks his family, Levene tricks his customers. As discussed in the paper, there are various lessons in Miller’s Death of a Salesman that Mamet’s character, Shelley Levene missed. For example, the application of deceitful selling methods leads to Loman’s tragic end, among others. It is deducible that both plays depicted the negative stigma against the salesmen during the century and both the playwrights use literature to criticize the unethical selling approaches.
Mamet, D. (2014). Glengarry Glen Ross. Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Miller, A., Morehouse, W., & Gibbs, W. (1973). Death of a Salesman. 1949.